Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Fiqh Of Funerals

Assalaamu alykum warahmathullaahi wa barakaathuh.

Bismillaahir Rahmaani Raheem

It has come to our attention that the community has certain queries regarding our upcoming event, “The Fiqh of Funerals”. We are writing to clarify our understanding in regard to these queries. We plan to do this using a Q&A style below, where some of the queries received will be addressed In-shaa Allah.

Q: Why the need to charge for an Islamic event?

This question can be answered in short by the fact that there are costs associated with events, be they of any kind, and not necessarily Islamic.

However, in the interest of transparency and clarity we’d like to take it one step further and explain a bit more.
We, at Sakeenah Institute, do acknowledge that there are different types of events:

1.) Events that are free of charge (which the Institute has hosted before - Angels & Demons, 25th Apr 2014)

2.) Events which are sponsored (which we will discuss below)

3.) Events for which the costs involved are covered through charging the patrons.

At Sakeenah Institute, we do not solely follow any one these styles above, but rather choose which style is appropriate for each event on a case by case basis. One principle which we do try to adhere to, is to produce events of a generally high quality*.
In order to achieve this, we have selected method number 3 for this particular event.

To illustrate, we have chosen a venue which we feel is comfortable and has adequate facilities to properly cater to a workshop where demonstrations and presentations will take place. In addition to venue costs, we will try to provide refreshments to all attendees as well as course materials (e.g. notepads and pens)

*In saying this, we mean absolutely no disrespect to organisers of other events, nor is this meant to put down any other event as being of low quality etc. May Allah accept from us and them.

Q: Why was this event not a sponsored event?

We, at Sakeenah Institute, strongly believe in a sustainable model of operations through which we hope to serve the community in a continuing and ongoing fashion. While we welcome the support of well-wishers and donors for our projects, we also feel that part of ongoing sustainability is to be financially stable and not solely dependent on one/ a group of donors. The thinking behind this is as follows:

In an authentic Hadith, the Prophet (SalAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) is reported to have said words to the effect that the upper hand is better than the lower hand when encouraging the Sahabah (ridhwaanullaahi ta’aala alaihim ajma’een) to give out charity and discouraging them from asking people (i.e. what we may consider as begging).

We believe that as an Institute with Islam as our identity, in accordance with this Hadith, we do not want to be seen as constantly being the lower hand that constantly approaches sponsors from the community for our events.
We have intentionally added emphasis so as not to put down the good-hearted people who fund Islamic events, but to recognise the contributions of these select few individuals and to not be a constant burden on them, nor hinder their ongoing commitments (whether Deen-related or otherwise). May Allah bless them and accept from them.

On a related note and at a higher level of thinking, the top management of the Institute would like to share as a point of advice to the community that it is better for Islamic initiatives and personalities to be financially independent in their own right. This is so that it is easier to accomplish goals such as staying firm on a particular Islamic stance, transparency, maintaining the respect of the society and clear judgement in their affairs.
On this note, we would like to encourage whoever reads this to dig deep into their pockets and contribute towards the upliftment of the financial position of the ‘ulema.
Some of the Imams of the Masaajid and the teachers in the Madrassahs go through financial hardship while teaching our children to read the Qur’an (i.e. an obligation on the parents of that child) and the least we can do is to help them in their daily affairs.

To draw a similarity, a recent event with a famous childhood character who visited our country, can call for thousands of rupees for attendance and some people would not hesitate to spend on this.
However, when it comes to the Islamic education of our community we are hesitant to spend. Our spending on such Islamic causes is directly linked with the welfare of those teaching them, and as shown above, this is from the respect we can show for our teachers of Deen.

Q: Do Deen-related activities in general have to be free of charge?

This answer is not solely in relation to Sakeenah Institute events, but a general clarification. We would like to clarify that charging for an event includes the attendees of that event in a share of the reward as they will be contributing towards funding the event and whatever goodness is gained from it. This would therefore not limit the reward being shared amongst a small group (i.e. organisers/ volunteers).

Furthermore, this is in accordance with the Prophetic model, where we find that the Prophet (SalAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) could have funded the muslim community affairs (e.g. expeditions, battles etc.) with the wealth of a select few abundantly wealthy Sahaba (ridhwaanullaahi ta’aala alaihim ajma’een) such as Abdur-Rahman ibn ‘Awf and Uthman ibn ‘Affan (RadhiAllahu Anhuma).
Instead, He (SalAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) encouraged the Sahaba in general, to collectively contribute in whatever possible way. This is in line with our opinion for the reward being shared amongst everyone.

We are also strong advocates that the teachers who have dedicated their lives towards the dissemination of knowledge need to be remunerated adequately for their services. This adds to them being able to be financially independent and respectable contributors of the society.
This also would add to the respect shown to the teachers of our Deen, as it is incumbent upon us to show such respect, as this is what having the knowledge of Deen commands. Further, this may also serve to inspire others, especially youth, to embark upon the path of seeking Islamic knowledge themselves.

Q: What was the basis for coming up with the amount charged?

Some of the queries or suggestions were that the rates charged were too high, and how was such a rate determined. The basis that was suggested was to take the maximum capacity of the hall into the amount charged, which they felt is higher than their estimated cost.

To clarify this point, it is not from prudence (the accounting concept) to forecast at maximum capacity, but rather to be conservative in your estimates. While we have not necessarily been conservative with the headcount, we have forecasted at a level which we feel is realistic.
For example, a hotel would not forecast 12-month forward revenue at a 100% occupancy rate throughout the period. Rather they would forecast based on historical trend and adjust for seasonal variations throughout the period (i.e. year).

Based on this realistic headcount, we have determined a figure which we feel is affordable and allows the sustainability model discussed above.

Q: What if a person sincerely cannot afford the amount charged?

If there is a brother or sister who sincerely cannot afford the amount charged then he/ she is welcome to approach any of the organisers (contact numbers given on advertising material) and they will look into financially supporting said individuals on a case by case assessment.

We would like to re-iterate that the Institute and its members emphasise justice, so nobody would be allowed to enter free of charge (as this would be an injustice to those who have paid) so such financial assistance will be borne by anonymous donors.

This is the same policy with regards to our ongoing student courses at the Institute.

Q: What will the excess funds be utilised for, if any?
If it is for the Institute, is this an appropriate way for the Institute to raise funds?

The excess funds, if any, will be used for other activities of the Institute at the sole discretion of its management.

As an educational institute, the main operations will consist of educational courses (e.g. ongoing and one-off courses). As these courses form the main operation of the institute, it is also the main revenue stream and therefore we feel it is a completely appropriate (and perhaps at times the only) way for the institute to raise funds, in line with the sustainable model, discussed above.

To conclude, whatever good was from Allah, and if there was any evil, then it was from the evil of ourselves & the devil.